January 22, 2009
“Meet the Candidates Night,” Doyle
recalls that a woman asked each of the local legislative candidates their
opinion on abortion legislation. Until that very moment, Doyle said, “I had
never even thought of abortion as a political issue. I didn’t know that at that
time, most states—including Maine—had laws that totally banned
abortions no matter what the circumstances. New York was the only state that allowed them,
and that was with certain restrictions. I managed to stammer an answer that
indicated that I thought abortions should be legal—that the decision should be
left to woman and her doctor. I had an instant constituency that expected me to
do something about the existing ban
Doyle went to
state capitol, and told those in charge that she wanted to repeal the abortion
law. Doyle was quickly caught in the legislative morass that complicated what to
her seemed a simple act. She said, “I learned that I needed to introduce a bill
similar to one in New
York that would allow abortions only if the life or
health of the pregnant woman was in danger if I had any hope of getting this
passed. I introduced two bills (so that there was a legislative alternative in
the process), and entered into a flurry of activity.” Doyle learned about the
history of abortion legislation—that there were no bans on the procedure until
the Industrial Revolution, when women were increasingly valued for their child
bearing ability, as more workers were needed to support the economy. She also
learned how vicious the opposition to her beliefs could be: “Not only was I
vilified in the media, my children were subjected to all sorts of harassment. My
husband lost his position with the Catholic Diocese, as he couldn’t ‘control’
me. However, I learned that there also was great support for my beliefs and for
me from a variety of liberals, including progressive Democrats, Unitarians and
Universalists, and Planned Parenthood.”
Doyle ended up
joining the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church of Bangor, ME, and said she felt like she had found an
intellectual, political and spiritual home. “I was invited to speak all over the
state at UU churches, and at various forums and debates. I went to New York City to visit abortion clinics and to Washington, DC, to a NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action
League) conference. I was interviewed on radio and TV, including one appearance
with Sarah Weddington, the attorney who presented Roe v. Wade to the U.S. Supreme Court.
It was all very exciting, and very difficult. “
proposed legislation finally came up for a vote, they were soundly defeated,
although with more Republican than Democratic votes registered in favor of
passage. Doyle did not win re-election, nor did some of her supporters. And
there was more change: “My marriage
ended, and I moved to Augusta.”. But in 1973, Roe v. Wade upheld the decision to have an abortion as a fundamental right, and
Doyle proudly proclaims, “I have been a UU throughout the subsequent years. In
retrospect, I marvel at my naivetè, but am pleased that I was able to play a
small part in this significant struggle for reproductive freedom. I am forever
grateful to the UUs who led me to the freedom of my individual spiritual
Health and Family Justice
For more information contact la_womensissues @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Thursday, June 3, 2010.
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